LOUISVILLE — A major fundraising campaign of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) could shut down early, falling as much as $15 million short of reaching its five-year, $40 million goal, if it doesn’t obtain money soon to pay its operating expenses.
The Mission Initiative: Joining Hearts & Hands campaign so far has raised $25 million in pledges for new church development in the United States and Presbyterian mission work overseas. But much of the money has been given with strings attached — donors are insisting that it be spent for particular projects, reflecting perhaps distrust of the national church or enthusiasm for particular projects.
The Hearts & Hands campaign has only enough unrestricted money on hand to pay its operating costs for the first two or three months of 2007 and is about $500,000 short of what it needs for the year, according to campaign director Jan Opdyke.
The General Assembly Council voted Sept. 29 that the council’s Executive Committee be authorized to seek sources of funding for the campaign’s operational costs for 2007 and to approve spending those funds once they’re found.
But the council also is insisting that some significant questions be answered about the Hearts & Hands campaign — they want, for example, a clearer picture of how many international missionaries the PC(USA) is sending out and how they are being supported financially.
Rick Ufford-Chase, moderator of the 216th General Assembly, said during the council’s meeting Sept. 26-29 in Kentucky that he wants to emphasize the PC(USA)’s dedication to international mission and its continuing support for the Hearts & Hands campaign.
But the push for public accountability of the Joining Hearts & Hands campaign is gaining steam.
“I have some serious questions about the viability of the project,” Zane Buxton, a council member from Colorado, told the council’s Worldwide Ministries Division Committee.
And Bill Young, who is executive director of Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship and a former national staff member, said: “I know how we were yanked around from the beginning” by the Hearts & Hands campaign. “Every time we thought we had something set,” the rules changed, Young said.
“They won’t let us get out to do what we need to do to raise money for missionaries. This has been a real problem for them (the national staff) at a time when they haven’t needed this,” he said.
Others cautioned, however, that it’s imperative for the PC(USA) that Hearts & Hands succeed.
Tom Gillespie, a council member from New Jersey and the former president of Princeton Theological Seminary, told the council he has 21 years’ experience in institutional fundraising, and “an absolutely cardinal rule is you never, ever, ever have an unsuccessful capital campaign. Once you announce it, you keep doing it until you’re successful … For goodness sake, let us not abandon it. We will regret it if we do.”
The questions about the campaign come at a tricky time, because two independent Presbyterian groups — Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship and The Outreach Foundation — announced in June that they would be raising money to send their own overseas missionaries.
Most of the first $25 million of the Hearts & Hands campaign has been raised through partnerships with presbyteries, and will be spent for new church development in the U.S. But the campaign’s steering committee has announced that the remaining $15 million, if it is raised, would be targeted towards international mission work.
On Sept. 28, David Peterson, co-chair of the campaign’s steering committee, told the council he considers Hearts & Hands to be the most important thing the PC(USA) is doing. Peterson, pastor of Memorial Drive Church in Houston, spoke about why he thinks its vital for a denomination that’s slumping in membership and crippled by controversy to turn its passion and energy to the crucial work of spreading the news of Jesus Christ around the world.
That desire for the Hearts & Hands campaign to do well has not squelched, however, questions about accountability. Ufford-Chase said he’s been frustrated for months now with the difficulty of getting solid numbers on financing for the PC(USA)’s international mission work, and figuring out exactly what role the Hearts & Hands money plays in that.
The recent $9.1 million budget cut and downsizing of the PC(USA)’s national staff hasn’t helped — particularly the initial announcement that the positions of 55 PC(USA) mission co-workers would be eliminated. Money to restore some of those positions later was found through a bequest, but the announcement that the denomination would send fewer missionaries angered many long-time supporters of Presbyterian work overseas.
A report to the council states that “to raise capital campaign funds, an organization needs to be stable and it needs established leadership.”
Opdyke told the Executive Committee that “trust is an issue” — in other words, many Presbyterians at the grassroots don’t trust the national church.
Under the restructuring, the PC(USA)’s Worldwide Ministries Division is being dissolved. And congregations, pastors and individuals who have supported it “now question what will replace that division and who will lead it,” the report states. “Mission co-workers are the most sacred of all denominational personnel. The thought of reducing our presence in the world is unfathomable to many.”
In the end, Ufford-Chase presented a list of questions he’d like the Executive Committee to find answers for — a list the full council endorsed. Among those questions:
“¢How many mission co-workers, specialists and volunteers are currently deployed and funded on behalf of the PC(USA)? Ufford-Chase said that when the budget cuts were being considered last spring, he heard different numbers used at different times of how many missionaries might lose their jobs, and never was satisfied the information he was being given was solid.
“¢What are the needs for maintaining the missionaries already working in the field? What’s required financially for their ongoing support? Does “new mission work” mean a job for a new missionary? Or that an existing worker’s term of service is ending, and this would provide new funding to allow that person to continue doing the same work?
“¢ If the Hearts & Hands campaign succeeds in raising another $15 million for international mission work, how will that money be used? How many missionaries would be deployed or supported?
“¢ Where will the money come from to pay the operating expenses of the Hearts & Hands campaign? “I have continuing questions about a campaign,” Ufford-Chase said, “that doesn’t even raise enough undesignated support to pay its own costs.”
“¢ How can the denomination as it is being restructured create an “integrated, cooperative approach” to working with the Hearts & Hands campaign, so the right questions get answered and new mission co-workers are sent to the places they are most needed?
Council member Ken Newbold of North Carolina added another question. What happens to missionaries who are sent into the field when Hearts & Hands has spent all its money? Newbold said he was told recently that those missionaries would come home when the money is exhausted.
So he wants to know, “What happens when the money runs out?”